There’s a threat to tradition that’s being floated in the world’s most popular sports league, England’s Premier League, that would end its adherence to the relegation/promotion system. According to a story by Yahoo! Sports’ Martin Rodgers, an increase in American ownership has made the move a serious consideration.
“‘There are a number of overseas-owned clubs already talking about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League,’ said Richard Bevan, chief executive of the powerful League Managers Association, which represents the interests of head coaches in English soccer. ‘If we have four or five more owners, this could happen.’”
Scary. The English Premier League and the rest of the world’s major soccer leagues utilize the unique system that relegates a league’s bottom-feeding teams (sends them to a lower professional division) and promotes a lower league’s winners to the next-level league. It’s a system that allows world soccer to stand alone in comparison to American sports leagues. In the case of England its practice dates back over a century and creates an ultimate importance within the regular season’s framework. Smaller clubs battle for the right to play against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, while mid-level clubs joust to avoid falling into oblivion.
The relegation/promotion system (especially in the EPL) makes every result do-or-die and the atmosphere that comes with such a structure ensures that teams don’t flounder along just to take from the league’s year-end bounty. It also ensures the English equivalents of a Tampa Bay Rays or Cleveland Cavaliers don’t bomb entire seasons just to proclaim “there’s always next year” and lay in wait for a potential draft pick.
Although the richest clubs always vie for the title, destitute clubs’ mad-dash scramble at the end of every EPL season to avoid relegation fosters the greatest final weeks in any professional sports league. It’s an energetic situation that American leagues can only dream about and it avoids the hokey, pre-manufactured attention generators that eight-team, postseason American playoffs create.
English legislators and Football Association officials should fight tooth and nail to keep this Americanization of a completely non-American sport from occurring. It would be a shame to see foreign, money-hungry influence dictate a system that has worked for over a hundred years.